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Angels December 16, 2012

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Belief, Superstition.
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There are many things we still don’t understand about the Connecticut school shooting that left twenty small children dead; and some questions may go forever unanswered. Dealing with such a tragedy, and consoling those who lost loved ones, is one of the hardest things any of us could ever have to do. But one thing we should not do is pretend to know things we do not know.

Olivia Engel had a part in a nativity play at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church. “She was supposed to be an angel in the play. Now she’s an angel up in heaven,” Monsignor Robert Weiss told a standing-room-only crowd at the church before the play on Saturday.

I’m sure some grieving people are comforted by that idea (without thinking through its implications) — but there is absolutely no reason to think it’s actually true. Tempting as it may be, false consolation is the easy way out: instead of dealing with reality and teaching our children (and ourselves) how to grieve, we imply that it’s OK to deny the facts and believe whatever makes you feel better. This is not a harmless “white” lie: disconnecting from reality has a price. Specifically, believing that people go to a better place when they die cheapens our lives here on Earth. Beliefs have consequences, and beliefs that take the “sting” out of death are especially dangerous. In fact, such beliefs do a lot of work for those who wish to rationalize killing children.

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Darkness and light December 8, 2012

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Reason, Religion.
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LightsI will not light a candle for miracles: I will not celebrate gullibility, ignorance, self-deception, wishful thinking. I will light a candle for skepticism, for intellectual honesty, for experimentation, for evidence-based thinking.

I will not light a candle for tribalism: I will not celebrate sectarian, parochial worldviews that arbitrarily divide humanity into separate categories. I will light a candle for equality, for empathy, for solidarity.

I will not light a candle for worship: I will not celebrate submission, propitiation, servility. I will light a candle for self-respect, for independence, for human dignity.

I will not light a candle for militarism: I will not celebrate violence, aggression, retribution, revenge. I will light a candle for those who put themselves in harm’s way, who defend those that cannot defend themselves.

I will not light a candle in yearning for some idealized past: we have struggled long and hard to overcome many historical errors and injustices. I will light a candle for progress, for learning from past mistakes, for continuing to expand our knowledge and raise our standards and improve our society.

I will not light a candle and pray for some all-powerful being to save us in our hour of need: the universe doesn’t care about us and wouldn’t notice if our planet went dark. I will light a candle for rational decision-making, for responsible public policy, for building a sustainable future — so that the lights may stay on a bit longer.

I will not light a candle just because I am commanded to: I will not celebrate dogmatism and blind obedience. If I choose to, I will light a candle for individuality, for critical thinking, for personal liberty.

Also, I will not light a candle for fried food — that stuff will kill you. Go eat an apple.